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Posts Tagged ‘birds’

My stack of books today glows budding-leaf green and robin’s-egg blue. Oh, what is as cheery and hopeful as spring? Soak up some gladness with these books, bursting with life, growth and new beginnings.

What Will Grow? written by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani
published in 2017 by Bloomsbury

For the littlest crop of sweet potatoes, don’t miss this sweet ode to seeds. Susie Ghahremani’s lovely artwork sweeps across the pages with luscious hues of springtime, summer, fall, straight through to the blue-cold of winter. Along the way we peek at seeds — round wrinkly peas, stripey sunflower seeds, snug prickly pine seeds packed into a cone — and discover what will grow from them.

Jennifer Ward’s minimal text provides just the right, lilting clues. She cleverly describes each seed with just three or four words, wisely choosing not to weigh down the delight and wonder of the illustrations.

A few gatefolds along the way augment the thrill of discovery –such fun to see that tall sunflower stretching up-up-up! End pages tell how to sow each of the seeds mentioned. This is a beauty of a book to enjoy with ages 18 months and up.

Over and Under the Pond, written by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
published in 2017 by Chronicle Books

Gliding along the quiet waters of a pond, observing the burble of life above the surface and the secret worlds below comes this elegant book.

The third collaboration between Messner and Neal, it’s as visually striking and wonder-filled as their previous titles which I’ve reviewed here and here.

Messner’s text revels in the jeweled glory of this watery world with skittering whirligig beetles, mussy busy beavers, ghostly-quiet herons a-stalking, and all the shimmering, dappled light. Neal’s handsome artwork captures the hush, the aqua-depths, the muck and reeds and secretive small worlds. Ingenuous changes in perspective keep every page fresh.

I’m thrilled that he places an African-American boy and mom in this wild, out-of-doors setting. Far too little diversity in children’s literature occurs outside of urban settings.

Learn more about each one of the species presented in several pages of  Author’s Notes. I have to say, as a boating enthusiast, I was bugged by the paddling faux pas here, but truly, this is another winner from this team for ages 3 and up.

Robins!: How They Grow Up, written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow
published in 2017 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A couple of robin siblings narrate the story of their lives in this information-soaked, immensely-engaging book from one of the best picture book makers, Eileen Christelow.

From the migration north of their parents, through nest-building, egg-incubating, and all the care and feeding of those scraggly chicks, Christelow’s text brims with intriguing detail, perfect pacing, and the appealing voice of these young robins. This reads like a story — not a mite of dry, merely-factual tone.

Christelow tracks their growth as they leave the nest, learn to feed themselves, and at about five months of age take to the skies to fly south. True to the realities of nature, two of their fellow nestmates don’t make it that far. Those harsh episodes are taken in stride by Christelow. It’s a fabulous presentation.

Colorful, captivating watercolor illustrations dominate the pages, bringing us eye to beak with these awkward chicks, right into the nest as it were. An Author’s Note tells how Christelow became so enamored with these birds, plus there’s a glossary and a couple Q&A pages with more Robin Facts. A gem for ages 4 and up.

Plants Can’t Sit Still, written by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illustrations by Mia Posada
published in 2016 by Millbrook Press

The ravishing colors of Minneapolis-artist (woot!) Mia Posada’s cut paper collages are the first thing you’ll notice when you open this book and oh! they will enchant you!

The fresh-lime burst of green leaves, blushing apricot tulips, twilight-purple morning glories, the seductive red of berries lurking in the bushes — every page surges with color, texture, and beauty.

Rebecca Hirsch’s text is every bit as enticing because although you may think of plants as sitting still, rooted in place, Hirsch leads us on a waltz of discovering otherwise. In fact, plants squirm, creep, climb, snap, nod, tumble, fling, whirl, drift…why, they just can’t sit still!

Back pages tell lots, lots more about plants and the particular species discussed in this book.  Genius concept, brilliantly carried out by this team. Full of the wonder of discovery for ages 2 and up.

Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring, written and illustrated by Rebecca Bond
published in 2017 by Charlesbridge

This charming early-reader knocked my socks off and warmed my heart. I don’t know if Rebecca Bond plans any more adventures for these too, but I have my fingers crossed!

The freshness of a spring morning has put Pig in a fine mood. A glorious sun and clear blue sky will do that! “Goody gumdrops!” Pig exclaims, and immediately makes plans for a picnic by the pond.

Pig soon meets up with Goose whose magnificent flying and swimming abilities make her wilt a bit with envy. Goose tries to coach Pig in these goose-y skills but…pigs really aren’t built for such things. Poor Pig! What is it she can do well?

Many things, it turns out, as she hosts a superb First-Day-0f-Spring party! Wow! You will want to be Pig’s guest at her next fiesta I’ll bet! Delectable details, spritzes of beauty, good humor, gladness of heart, and a dear friendship — that’s what’s here. Bond’s fetching watercolor work is the cherry on top. Readers who can manage Frog and Toad can read this on their own, or share it with listeners as young as 3. Lovely!

Wake Up! words by Helen Frost, photography by Rick Lieder
published in 2017 by Candlewick

This is the latest collaboration for poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder. Each one provides a breathtaking pause from the cacophony of noise, the jungles of cement, a step away, a redirect of our gaze towards the glorious spectacle of nature. All done in whisper quiet.

Feast your eyes and soul on the magenta swoosh of a peony, the emerald wetness of a frog, the fuzzy warmth of a newborn lamb. Wake up to manifestations of new life “exploding outside your door!”

I love the work being done by this team, simply bringing children up close to the wonders of nature, quieting them with few words, thoughtful questions, enticing them to wander out of doors. Find my reviews of two of their other titles here and here. Share them all with ages 18 months and older.

Birds Make Nests, written and illustrated by Michael Garland
published in 2017 by Holiday House

Michael Garland’s arresting woodcuts adorn the pages of this book and captivate us with the extraordinary wonder of bird nests.

Minimal text describes some of the vast variety in construction from a hummingbird’s tiny woven cup, to the giant mounds made by flamingos, and one house sparrow’s nest lodged in the pocket of a stop light.

The bulk of what we learn comes via Garland’s handsome prints, flooding the pages with earthy colors and rich texture. I love the minimal interference between the child reader and these wonders of nature. No back pages, even, with more info. Just — soak in the craftsmanship of both bird and artist. A lovely, leisurely wander for ages 3 and up.

First Garden: The White House Garden and How it Grew, written and illustrated by Robbin Gourley
published in 2011 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Children earnestly digging in the soil. Heirloom seeds passed down from Thomas Jefferson. Beehives and ladybugs, eggplants and blueberries. But no beets!

The story of Michelle Obama’s gardening initiative dances with the joy of the earth’s fruitfulness, the brilliance of children learning by digging, sowing, weeding, harvesting, and cooking delicious food in the White House kitchen!

Add in the history of White House gardening down through the centuries from John Adams’ first vegetable and fruit gardens through Patricia Nixon’s garden tours. Sprinkle atop some delicious recipes to try straight from the White House. Then illustrate with Robbin Gourley’s sunny, vivacious watercolors. Ta da! You’ve concocted this delicious book!

A delight to share with ages 4 and up. Plus, you can discover why there are no beets!

There are lots more spring-y titles listed in my Subject Guide. Look under Science: Seasons. And Happy Springtime to one and all!

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Hope you’re enjoying some leisurely moments this summer. Here are 10 awesome 2016 books to while away the hours.

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Tell Me a Tattoo Story, by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
published in 2016 by Chronicle Books

This warm story has to be one of the first that stars a parent’s tattoos. In affectionate conversation, Dad tells his son the special significance of a number of his inkings.

tell me a tattoo story interior mcghee and wheeler

And no wonder his little boy never tires of hearing these stories! They are brimming with love for the special people in his life. Illustrated with buttermilk-fresh beauty by the talented Eliza Wheeler. This charmer will be the perfect fit for many, and a delightfully warm family tale for all, ages 2 and up.

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On the Farm, At the Market, written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas
published in 2016, Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company

Impeccably timed for the farmer’s market season, this marvelous book tracks the gorgeous, farm-fresh produce from the field to the market stalls.

on the farm at the market interior g. brian karas

Vegetables, cheeses, mushrooms — the hard work of raising and preparing them for us is a glory to witness, as is the joy of putting these goods into our hands and the delicious meal made from them all at the Busy Bee Cafe. Written and illustrated with joy and friendliness, this is a treat for ages 3 and up!

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Treat, words and pictures by Mary Sullivan
published in 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

And speaking of treats, any of you who are dog-lovers will snicker mightily over this little dog’s passionate pursuit of a dog treat!

treat interior mary sullivan

Only one word is used in this story, and it’s music — at times tortuous music! — to this little dog’s ears. Treat!! Laugh along at his frantic obsession in this funny, oh-so-fetching story. Ages 3 and up.

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Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin, written and illustrated by Matt Tavares
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press

This is the absolutely stunning story of a tightrope walker in the 1800s who crossed the Niagara Falls gorge not just once, not just with his slender balancing pole for company, but more than a dozen times with increasingly-impossible added burdens and twists.

crossing niagara illustration detail by matt tavares

To put this in perspective, the Twin Tower walk was 140 feet; Blondin walked 1100 feet. Your jaw will drop when you read this incredible story, masterfully told and illustrated by Matt Tavares. Ages 5 and up.

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Buddy and Earl Go Exploring, by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
published in 2016 by Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press

Second dog story of the day, and this one is so funny and charming. Buddy the dog and Earl the hedgehog are pets in the same household and very good friends.

buddy and earl go exploring interior fergus and sookocheff

When Earl wants to go a-roving in the nighttime, however, his slightly-dim wits and ignorance of the household rules are quite alarming to Buddy! Watch the disaster unfold and fall in love with that good dog, Buddy. Illustrated with imagination, humor, and buckets of personality. Ages 3 and up.

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Can I Eat That? by Joshua David Stein, illustrated by Julia Rothman
published in 2016 Phaidon Press Inc.

I’ve never seen anything quite like this exuberant, off-beat exploration of food! Curious questions and surprising answers. Ways to eat a sea urchin and maybe-possibly something that at least sounds like a tornado.

can i eat that? interior stein and rothman

Do eggs grow on eggplants? And where does one go to pick pickles? Have a blast wandering and wondering through this book, illustrated with blasts of lively color and cool design. Ages 2 and up.

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Tokyo Digs a Garden, by Jon-Erik Lappano, illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka
published in 2016 by Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press

A whimsical, fantastical, eco-friendly story awaits you in this gorgeous book coming to us from our good neighbors in Canada.

tokyo digs a garden illustration kellen hatanaka

Tokyo’s grandfather remembers when the vast city they live in was a place of “hills and forest and meadows and streams.” Now it’s a concrete jungle. Until a mysterious old woman appears, on a bicycle, hauling some earth, and handing out seeds to Tokyo. Crazy things ensue in this strikingly-handsome story for dreamers ages 3 and up-up-up.

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Hannah and Sugar, written and illustrated by Kate Berube
published in 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Third and final dog story for the day. (Can you tell I love dogs?!)

Hannah is quite shy of dogs. Timid of their teeth perhaps. Alarmed by their bold wagging and playfulness. So every day when the rest of the kids get off the school bus and happily greet Sugar (as sweet a dog as her name suggests), Hannah walks the other way. Quickly.

hannah and sugar interior kate berube

One day, though, Sugar is lost and as it turns out, Hannah is the only one who can save her. Watch what happens in this tender, warm story. I love it. Ages 2 and up.

Yaks-YakAnimal-Word-Pairs-by-Linda-Sue-Park

Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
published in 2016 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Language that’s ticklishly playful. Fascinating pairings to ponder for children who revel in the wonders of words.

yaks yak interior park and reinhardt

Humorous, spectacular illustrations of yaks yakking, bugs bugging bugs, ducks ducking, and oodles more. Brain-fizzing, imagination-sparking cleverness galore spills forth on every page of this ingenuous book. Great fun for ages 4 or 5 and up.

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My Book of Birds, written and illustrated by Geraldo Valério
published in 2016 by Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press

This oversized beauty is a cover-to-cover gorgeous sampling of birds, impeccably presented by Groundwood Books.

my book of birds interior geraldo valerio

Brazilian artist Valério has always been fascinated by birds. When he moved to Canada he met a whole new group of them who reside in the northern hemisphere. Here he presents his favorites via his stunning collages.

my book of birds interior 2 geraldo valerio

Revel in the shape of the Great Blue Heron, the vivid red of the Northern Cardinal, the streamlined swoop of the swallow family. And read snippets of information that sparkle with the wonders of each bird. Visually-sumptuous — a bit of a Charley Harper feel — for ages 2 to 100.

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I’m slowly easing into normal life after an extraordinary couple of weeks in Scandinavia. One of the highlights was the breathtaking scenery of Norway.

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It’s hard to imagine living amid that kind of gorgeousness and not being tuned in to the natural world. Yet there is wonder and beauty everywhere, and today’s books entice us to get outdoors and marvel at what surrounds us.

water is water cover imageWater is Water: A Book about the Water Cycle, by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin
published in 2015 by Roaring Brook Press

This title is getting many vigorous nods of approval in the children’s lit world, and for good reason: It’s beautiful and brilliant.

Miranda Paul has pared down her clever text to a point of remarkable simplicity. Her sparkling narrative, infused with zesty words, curious questions, and surprising twists at every page turn, effortlessly engages us as it brings us full circle through both the water cycle and the seasons. 

water is water illustration 2 jason chin

Jason Chin’s fabulous paintings take this short text and dress it in beauty, life, gleeful play, and community, with the glories of each season spread out before us at every turn. I adore the array of outdoor activities these children are busy about!

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Several pages further explain the fascinating facts about water we’ve just glimpsed. The main text is accessible to ages 2 and up; the end matter is suited to early elementary kids. I love this book! Do take a look.

in the canyon cover imageIn the Canyon, by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Ashley Wolff
published in 2015 by Beach Lane Books

The young girl in this story has her hiking boots on and her Tilley hat smartly perched on her head. She’s set to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and we get to experience the trail along with her!

The long trek down, down, down, meanders past unusual plants and animals, switchbacks through brightly-hued layers of rock, until finally it reaches the Colorado River at the very bottom.

in the canyon illustration2 ashley wolff

Ashley Wolff’s bold, sun-baked block prints are the stars of the book. I love the heat and strength of these illustrations which really usher us into this unusual world. I’ve hiked this trail, and felt transported there through Wolff’s radiant artwork, which as always has tremendous child-appeal.

in the canyon interior ashley wolff

Thanks to Liz Garton Scanlon for letting this pip-squeak hike such a doozy of a trail and treasure that wilderness experience even as she returns to the city. Ages 2 and up, with added notes about the canyon’s flora and fauna for slightly older children.

the singer in the stream cover imageThe Singer in the Stream: A Story of American Dippers, by Katherine Hocker and Mary Wilson, illustrations by Katherine Hocker
published in 2015 by Yosemite Conservancy

This little bird, whose feet as you can see, are not webbed, swims underwater!

The American Dipper was John Muir’s favorite bird, and he learned to look for it near waterfalls and rushing rapids, “flitting about in the spray, diving in its foaming eddies, whirling like a leaf…

american dipper from juneauempire dot com

Learn about this feisty, sweet-singing bird who weaves mossy nests the size of volleyballs, always near a stream. Watch the chicks hatch, take their first terrified leap out of the nest, and learn to dive underwater for the waterbugs they love to eat. 

Three hungry babies!

Three hungry babies!

There’s gobs of information in the end pages about Dippers, the process of studying them undertaken by the author American Dipper feeding underwater.and illustrator, and John Muir’s fascination with them. I’m not sure how easy it is to locate this book, but it’s a fine glimpse of nature study that inspires us to look more carefully at what’s in our own back yards. 

Ages 6 and up.

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be fascinated by a bee

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Bee Dance, written and illustrated by Rick Chrustowski
published in 2015 by Henry Holt and Company

Minnesota author/illustrator alert!

Rick Chrustowski’s bold, colorful cut paper collage will magnetize young children to these pages, while his energetic text draws them into the world of the hive.

bee dance interior rick chrustowski

Discover how bees dance messages to one another, telling them just where to find a honey jackpot. Flabbergasting stuff, for ages 2 and up.

in honor of the Great Minnesota Get-Together — the State Fair!

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Billy and Goat at the State Fair, written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
published in 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf

There’s nothing like the State Fair! Billy and his rambunctious best friend Goat are certainly keen to go.

billy and goat at the state fair interior dan yaccarino

Billy plans to enter his goat in the Best Goat Contest, while Goat is siren-drawn to wild adventures. Ride the roller coaster, munch corn dogs, and find out if this pair ever makes it to the livestock arena. Jolly antics for ages 2 and up.

a cute collection of stories for independent readers

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Sprout Street Neighbors: Five Stories, written and illustrated by Anna Alter
published in 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf

Henry Mouse, Wilbur Cat, Violet Hen, Emma Squirrel, and Fernando Rabbit are friendly neighbors, living in an apartment building on Sprout Street.

sprout street neighbors illustration anna alter

Join them in five sweet tales that take us through a year of acorn dilemmas, birthday parties, Daffodil Parades, secret gardens, and tenderhearted solutions to pesky problems. 100 illustrated pages, for sturdy readers ready for a chapter book or to read aloud to ages 4 and up.

a good old-fashioned road trip

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Drive: A Look at Roadside Opposites by Kellen Hatanaka
published in 2015 by Groundwood Books

Coming to us from Canada — take a stylish road trip in this loaded-down station wagon and spy high and low things, above and below things, by gazing out your window.

drive a look at roadside opposites interior kellen hatanaka

Hatanaka’s stunning graphic design will please young and old. Simply gorgeous, for ages 18 months and up.

a charming year of poetry

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Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection, poems by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrations by Tiphanie Beeke
published in 2015 by Sourcebooks

Charlotte Zolotow is one of the grand dames of children’s literature who died at age 98, in 2013. Here is a dear collection of 28 of her poems, arranged by season.

Changes by Charlotte Zolotow and Tiphanie Beeke

Almost entirely devoted to the experiences of young children in the natural world, these short, sparkling gems are accompanied by Beeke’s lovely, sunny illustrations. Beautiful, timeless, captivating, for ages 2 and up.

hold on to your doughnuts!

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Jampires, written and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell
published in the UK in 2014; first U.S. edition 2015 by Scholastic, Inc.

Sam has encountered an abysmally shocking situation: the jam filling in his doughnut has been sucked out by…Something!

Turns out it’s a case of Jampires!

jampires interior sarah mcintyre and david o'connell

Jampires, if you don’t know, are relentlessly in search of jammy goodness! Sam voyages to The Land of the Jampires — a confectionary fairyland — and forges a delectable alliance! Unwrap a pack of Jammie Dodgers and dig into this toothsome delight with ages 3 and up.

a cautionary tale about pets

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Melissa’s Octopus and Other Unsuitable Pets, written and illustrated by Charlotte Voake
published in the UK in 2014; first U.S. edition 2015 by Candlewick Press

Melissa has an Octopus…who makes quite a sloshy mess in the bathtub.

And Arthur’s warthog is quite boorish about pushing his weight around.

melissa's octopus and other unsuitable pets interior charlotte voake

But one pet is clearly the most unsuitable of them all! What can it be?!

Charming and funny…with a gulping shock at the end! Beware: children are consumed in this story! If your child, age 4 and older, is up for that sort of humor, this morsel will tickle her fancy. By the wonderful Charlotte Voake.

trouble with a night owl duck

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Goodnight Already! by Jory John, illustrated by Benji Davies
published in 2015 by Harper

Bear is exhausted. He can hardly wait to snuggle down in his bed and sleep.

Duck is bright eyed and caffeinated. He’s ready to hang out with his good buddy, Bear.

goodnight already interior jory john and benji davies

These two are on a collision course. How will it end? For any bedraggled parent of everready-energy-bunny children, this humorous tale will ring true. Benji Davies’ brilliant illustrations pack in oodles of personality. A big winner for ages 3 and up.

how to win friends and influence people

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One Word from Sophia, by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail
published in 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

I picked this up because of my adoration for Yasmeen Ismail’s illustration work. Love, love, love her!

one word from sophia interior jim averbeck and yasmeen ismail

It’s the clever and unusual account of young Sophia whose One True Desire is a pet giraffe. Her mom, dad, uncle and grand-mama need serious convincing, however, giving Sophia quite a task — navigating each person’s unique sense of logic and discovering the best approach ever. A splendid and original book for ages 4 or 5 and up.

introducing a pioneering painter of birds — and it’s not Audubon

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The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist, by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Aliona Bereghici
published in 2015 by Two Lions

Louis Agassiz Fuertes was born in New York in 1874 and went on to pioneer the painting of living birds in natural habitats rather than kill, taxidermy, and stylize them for their portraits.

sky painter interior margarita engle and aliona bereghici

This lyrical, brief biography of him sings with beauty, while the watercolor illustrations saturate the pages with vivid color. An enormously appealing window on birds, art, and a wonderful man. Share this with children ages 3 and up. An informative Historical Note will fill in some blanks for older readers.

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Today I’ve got three beautiful books, all coming our way from Australia in 2015,  acquainting us with some of the unique creatures trundling about down there. Prepare to be intrigued!

emu cover imageEmu, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne
first U.S. edition published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

In the open forest, where eucalyptus trees fringe tufty grasslands, honey-pale sunshine seeps to where Emu sits on a nest.

Take a look at that shaggy, giant emu with such a dynamic hairstyle. Isn’t he spectacular?!

There are “eight granite-green eggs” to keep warm, and that’s entirely a job for Mr. Emu. Mama Emu is nowhere to be found. That’s the way it’s done in emu circles.

Once the eggs are laid, female emus have nothing further to do with the hatching or rearing of their young.

emu claire saxby and graham byrne

Follow along with this fellow and his brood and you’ll learn the curiosities involved in hatching emus, which enemies long to snatch emu eggs and hatchlings, how emus fight back!, what they like to eat, and more.

Scratchy, highly-textured, bold illustrations add a marvelous sense of strength and the raw, wild world of nature. An excellent introduction to such a unique bird for ages 4 and older. 

21965585Bilby: Secrets of an Australian Marsupial, by Edel Wignell, illustrated by Mark Jackson
first U.S. edition published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

With it’s long pointy nose, rabbitty ears, and gleaming eyes, the bilby looks like such a cute little fellow.

However, he’s also equipped with sharp teeth, powerful back legs, and some serious claws, so…don’t mess with him!bilby illustration mark jackson

Like all marsupials, Mama Bilby carries her babies in her pouch. They are about “as long as your little toe” when they’re born.

Bilby illustration2 Mark Jackson

Learn about these intriguing, endangered, desert-dwellers in this brief, well-written account. Mark Jackson’s vivid illustrations bring us nose to nose with those bewitching little faces, tuck us into Mama’s burrow, and trot us about the nighttime desert landscape. Ages 3 or 4 and up.

sand-swimmersSand Swimmers: The Secret Life of Australia’s Desert Wilderness, written and illustrated by Narelle Oliver
first U.S. edition published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

Australia’s center is mainly desert, a rusty-red, cracked, parched land. As far as you can see, it looks devoid of life.Sand Swimmers illustration2 narelle Oliver

But it holds many secrets, if you know where to look.

Fairy shrimp eggs lie in wait by the millions, waiting for rain so they can hatch.

Water-holding frogs snuggle in waterproof cocoons deep, deep in the ground, waiting for years and years, perhaps, until rain water trickles its way to them.

Sand Swimmers illustration Narelle OliverMulgaras and gibberbirds, earless dragons and kultarrs — have you ever heard of these guys?! I had not, until I read this fascinating account of the amazing creatures that make their homes in such a perilous environment.

Oliver’s illustrations entice us to pay close attention as she camoflauges the creatures into their habitats, then guides us towards spotting them. Fabulous book for ages 7 and up.

[Note that the title on the image I’ve used is the Australian title. Apparently “dead heart” did not have a nice enough ring for us Americans!]

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I’ve been looking at a lot of new-in-2015 picture books lately and these two are truly some of the most dramatically beautiful I’ve seen thus far.

beautiful birds cover image Beautiful Birds, text by Jean Roussen, illustrations by Emmanuelle Walker
published in 2015 by Flying Eye Books

My limited experience with Flying Eye Books has convinced me that they only publish stunning visual keepsakes, so it’s always exciting to see what’s new coming from them.

This is an alphabet of birds, from the albatross and bee-eater straight on through the yorkshire canary and zosteropidae (which is actually a bird family if you want to get all picky about it but what are you going to do with the letter z, anyway? Not a myriad choices, I imagine.)

In rhyming couplets, Roussen introduces us to more than 26 birds — some letters get more than one. You won’t learn a great deal about the birds, but you’ll meet a wide variety of them; certainly quite a few lovelies you don’t usually see in your neighborhood.

beautiful birds interior roussen and walker

Emmanuelle Walker’s magnificent illustrations are the huge draw here. She’s a UK illustrator with a superb sense of color and design. Here’s a sneak peek of some of what you’ll soak up in this oversized book:

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toucans and tanagers…

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birds of paradise and peacocks…

beautiful birds illustration detail emmanuelle walker

here’s a close-up of a brilliant, lime-green, bee-eater.

As you can see, it’s a strikingly colorful beauty to share with folks ages 2 to 100. Design students, take note, and if you’d like to visit Ms. Walker’s website, that’s here.

a nest is noisy cover imageA Nest is Noisy, written by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long
published in 2015 by Chronicle Books

This is the latest collaboration between Aston and Long in their beautiful series of books, and what a jaw-droppingly gorgeous work it is.

From the cover, to the endpapers, and every page between, Long’s watercolor work is like ambrosia. Jewel-like, iridescent feathers and the gleaming, mottled skin of a tree frog. Textures of all manner of nests, water and mud, cactus and honeycomb — are richly displayed. What a gift she has given us, to call us to look closely and marvel over the beauty of the natural world around us.

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Aston has chosen a wonderful variety of nesting creatures. Birds, yes, but also reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and even a few mammals are portrayed here. Did you know orangutans construct nests?

Her clear, measured descriptions provide lots of intriguing information about these nest-builders and the amazing variety of nests, yet are far from coldly scientific. These short passages are warm with admiration and always stop short of overwhelming us. 

a nest is noisy interior aston and long

Don’t miss this one. It’s the tip-top of what nonfiction can be, for ages 4 and up.

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stripedeggs from purlbee dot comEaster is coming, a time of eggs everywhere, those exquisite surprise packages that gladden us with thoughts of new life.  

Here are two gorgeous new books and one vintage sweetheart to add to your Springtime or Eastertime collection:

p.zonka lays an egg cover imageP. Zonka Lays an Egg, written and illustrated by Julie Paschkis
published in 2015 by Peachtree

Look at that cover! Like an outpouring of sunshine and joy! How can you possibly resist taking a peek inside?!

There, bathed in lemony radiance, we meet three industrious hens, one sterling rooster, and P. Zonka.

P. Zonka is not keeping up with the egg-laying prowess of Maud, Dora, and Nadine which concerns them greatly. Much clucking and advice-dispensing is showered on P. Zonka, to no avail.

p. zonka lays an egg julie paschkis interior

For she is a dreamer, that P. Zonka, lost in the wonder and beauty of her surroundings, much too distracted by the azure sky, pink cherry blossoms, and “the shining center of a dandelion” to attend to egg laying.

PZonka-Interior-Working

One day, though, she decides to give it a whirl. And oh my stars!! All the glory she’s feasted her eyes upon comes to fruition. Spectacular!

Julie Paschkis stole my heart long ago with her artwork but here she outdoes herself.  An exuberance of color and the vibrant, rejoicing, folk-motif line that dances across the pages are stunning. I love the dreamy P. Zonka, whose name is derived from Ukrainian pysanka eggs. An Author’s Note tells us of an annual neighborhood egg-decorating party which inspired this book. Wouldn’t you like to attend? Or begin the tradition in your own circle?

Don’t miss this gem, for ages 2 and up.

crinkle crackle crack it's spring cover imageCrinkle, Crackle, Crack: It’s Spring! by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by John Shelley
published in 2015 by Holiday House

It’s still winter as this story begins, with cold stars glittering in the night sky, and one little squirt tucked under quilts in her attic bedroom.

But what is that scruffly, crunchity, crackly sound?!

crinkle crackle crack it's spring illustration2 john shelley

Traipse outdoors to see what is astir, and there is (and this is apparently a normal occurrence) a bear waiting. Off the two set, for “it is time.”

Everyone seems to know the time has come. The buds and the breeze, the rabbit and squirrel. All hearts are light, and yours would be, too, except those rapping, tapping, whacking, cracking sounds are getting louder and louder and louder!! What on earth can it be?!

crinkle crackle crack it's spring illustration john shelley

Then Spring bursts forth in all its flowery, soaring, joyfulness…and the mystery is solved. 

A charming story, with gorgeous, friendly, ink and watercolor paintings that journey from drab, puddly, late-winter, to a virtual explosion of springtime brilliance.  Another one not to miss, for ages 2 and up.

lullaby for eggs cover imageLullaby for Eggs: A Poem, by Betty Bridgman, with pictures by Elizabeth Orton Jones
published in 1954 by The MacMillan Company

While the first two books today trumpet the gladness of Spring, this tender, vintage beauty whispers of the hope…of an egg.

The text is a poem by a Minnesota author, Betty Bridgman.

She was a poet who avidly supported the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden here in Minneapolis. Her love of the fragile beauty of flowers and birds is evident in these poignant lines, and I can imagine her sitting in the rustic shelter in that garden, which has, at least in the past, had a wondrous display of birds nests and eggs. 

1940s shelter at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

1940s shelter at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

There is something about a wild bird’s egg that makes us hold our breath in wonder. The fragility. The blush of color; spray of speckles. The serenity. 

FernEggs3

Bridgman’s lullaby addresses the Earth in her “shawl of temperate air” imploring her to “smoothly roll — take care, take care, for swaying in artfully woven twigs ride hopeful eggs…”

lullaby for eggs illustration elizabeth orton jones

Accompanying this poem, this request to “guard fragile things that hold our hope of song and wings” are soft, colored pencil illustrations by award-winning illustrator Elizabeth Orton Jones. So delightfully old-fashioned and quiet.

lullaby for eggs illustration2 elizabeth orton jones

It is an extreme pity that this book has fallen out of print, but I’d encourage you to keep an eye out for it. For those of you in the Twin Cities, the Hennepin County Library has several copies. A sweet read for ages 2 or 3 and up.

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